When applying for citizenship, having a valid green card on hand will certainly make the process run more smoothly. An expiring, expired, or lost green card could cause unwanted problems during the naturalization process.
U.S. immigration law does not specifically require you to have a valid green card when applying for citizenship. However, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is the government agency that will process your green card application, does require that you have a valid green card when applying for citizenship.
Effective Dec. 12, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to allow USCIS to automatically extend the validity of Permanent Resident Cards (commonly called Green Cards) for lawful permanent residents who have applied for naturalization. Source: USCIS
Different Scenarios to Apply for Citizenship With Green Card
While USCIS technically requires that you have a valid green card at the time of your interview, applying for citizenship with an expired green card will likely not affect your application. However, if your card has been lost or stolen, USCIS will likely require that you get a replacement card before they will process your application.
No matter what scenario you find yourself in, having a valid green card when applying for citizenship will always be the safest route to ensuring that you don’t face any complications. There are enough potential bumps in the road to citizenship. It is best to avoid any unnecessary ones.
Apply for Citizenship With Expiring Green Card
If your green card is nearing its expiration date while you are waiting for citizenship, you might want to consider applying to renew the card rather than waiting to take your chances with USCIS.
The time it takes to complete the naturalization process can vary significantly. The time between completing the test and interview and getting your results alone can take zero to 120 days. It is important to keep this in mind if you are applying for citizenship with a limited amount of time left on your green card validity.
Apply for Citizenship With Expired Green Card
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), lawful permanent residents are required to have proof of their right to residency with them at all times. While you likely will still be able to apply for citizenship without too much hassle, if a USCIS officer decides to make it tough on you, they can.
Letting your green card expire will not affect your rights to residency. However, you could be denied many of the benefits that a green card offers, such as employment or the ability to travel freely. Additionally, you could face a misdemeanor charge, with a punishment of a fine of up to $100 or a jail sentence of up to 30 days.
Apply for Citizenship With a Lost or Stolen Green Card
Applying for citizenship after you have lost your green card tends to be a much more significant problem. During your Oath of Allegiance ceremony, USCIS confiscates your green card when they provide you with your Certificate of Naturalization.
See Also: How to replace your lost green card
If your green card has been lost or stolen, it is recommended that you file Form I-90 to replace your card. If you lose your card in the days before your interview is scheduled, you should file a police report and submit a sworn statement of how you lost the card. USCIS may choose to proceed with your naturalization without making you wait until you file Form I-90.
How I-551 Stamp Will Help You to Apply for Citizenship
Form I-551 is the official name for a green card. When you are applying to renew or replace your permanent resident card, an I-551 stamp can be used as evidence of your permanent resident status. A temporary I-551 stamp is not intended to be used simply because you didn’t bother to replace your green card in time.
However, if your card was lost or stolen, or the application process for naturalization is taking especially long, you can get an I-551 stamp as a last resort. With this stamp, you won’t have to wait until you receive your new card before completing the naturalization process.
This stamp can also be used in other emergency situations, including if you need to travel while waiting for your new green card. You can call USCIS to request an appointment to get the temporary I-551 stamp and avoid the potential complications that can arise when you don’t have a valid, unexpired green card in your possession.
Should You Renew Your Green Card Before Applying for US Citizenship?
While it is possible to get your citizenship with an expired or lost green card, it is always going to be far simpler if you have a valid, unexpired green card in your possession while going through the naturalization process.
Applying for citizenship with a green card that has expired is a gamble. While you may wish to avoid paying for another 10-year card that you will only need for a couple of months, the money you save might not be worth the potential hassle that could accompany an attempt to attain citizenship with a lost or expired green card.
It is essential to realize that the renewal process for a green card can be quite lengthy and full of delays. Make sure to begin the renewal process early so that you give yourself plenty of time to complete it before your current green card expires.
Get Help Replacing Your Green Card From ImmigrationDirect
If you need to replace your green card because it has been lost or stolen or is due to expire, you will need to file Form I-90. ImmigrationDirect can help you with all of your immigration needs. We can walk you through all of the steps necessary to replace your green card so that you can apply for naturalization without any issues.
Contact us today to get more information about Form I-90 or learn about the steps you need to take when applying for citizenship. We can provide you with all the necessary tools and information to make sure that all of your forms are filled out correctly and streamline the process of naturalization.